Literature

The Professional: Donald E. Westlake

October 15, 2014
By
The Professional: Donald E. Westlake

 

Deadspin columnist/Yankees fan/out-of-print litterateur Alex Belth recently sat down over email with Levi Stahl, University of Chicago Press promotions director and editor of The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany. Their resulting conversation, published today at Deadspin, al0ng with an excerpt from the book, includes the history of their engagement with the Parker novels, Jimmy the Kid‘s amazing cover design, culling through Westlake’s archive, an obscure British comedy show, and the perils of professional envy vs. professional admiration. You can read the interview in full here, and have a look at a clip after the jump below.

***

Q: In a letter, Westlake described the difference between an author and a writer. A writer was a hack, a professional. There’s something appealing and unpretentious about this but does it take on a romance of its own? I’m not saying he was being a phony but do you think that difference between a writer and an author is that great?

LS: I suspect that it’s not, and that to some extent even Westlake himself would have disagreed with his younger self by the end of his life. I think the key distinction . . .

Read more »

An excerpt from Lee Siegel’s Trance Migrations

October 8, 2014
By
An excerpt from Lee Siegel’s Trance Migrations

From Trance Migrations: Stories of India, Tales of Hypnosis by Lee Siegel

The Child’s Story

And now, if you dare, LOOK into the hypnotic eye! You cannot look away! You cannot look away! You cannot look away!

—THE GREAT DESMOND IN THE HYPNOTIC EYE (1960)

I was eight years old when my mother was hypnotized by a sinister Hindu yogi. Yes, she was entranced by him, entirely under his control, and made do things she would never have done in her normal waking state. My father wasn’t there to protect her and there was nothing I, a mere child, could do about it. I vividly remember his turban and flowing robes, his strange voice, gliding gait, and those eerie eyes that widened to capture her mind. I heard his suggestive whispers—“Sleep Memsaab, sleep”—and saw his hand moving over her face in circular hypnotic passes. “Sleep, Memsaab.”

It’s true. I heard it with my own ears and saw it with my own eyes as I watched “The Unknown Terror,” an episode of the series Ramar of the Jungle, on television one evening in 1953. Playing the part of a teak plantation owner in India, . . .

Read more »

Excerpt: Roger Grenier’s Palace of Books

October 2, 2014
By
Excerpt: Roger Grenier’s Palace of Books

 

“Private Life”

The expansion of the media has put the writer in the spotlight, even if, nowadays, people who write have lost much of their prestige and their importance in society. Some of them find themselves afflicted with a lack of privacy once reserved for movie stars. Sometimes they ask for it. Michel Contat writes about “this form of media totalitarianism that gives the right to know everything about someone based on the simple fact that he or she has created a public image.” This phenomenon is not so new, if you think about Sartre and Beauvoir, not to mention Musset and George Sand, Dante and Beatrice, Petrarch and Laura, or even the self-dramatizing Byron or Chateaubriand. Nowadays we have scribblers who manage to pass themselves off as writers because they’ve already made a name for themselves as celebrities.

Gérard de Nerval was a victim of the public’s need to know, due to conditions that would be unimaginable today. Jules Janin, in the Journal des débats of March 1, 1841; Alexandre Dumas, in Le Mousquetaire of December 10, 1853; Eugène de Mirecourt in a little monograph in his series Les Contemporains in . . .

Read more »

Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness

August 15, 2014
By
Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness

When you think about Wikipedia, you might not immediately envision it as a locus for a political theory of openness—and that might well be due to a cut-and-paste utopian haze that masks the site’s very real politicking around issues of shared decision-making, administrative organization, and the push for and against transparencies. In Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness, forthcoming this December, Nathaniel Tkacz cuts throw the glow and establishes how issues integral to the concept of “openness” play themselves out in the day-to-day reality of Wikipedia’s existence. Recently, critic Alan Liu, whose prescient scholarship on the relationship between our literary/historical and technological imaginations has shaped much of the humanities turn to new media, endorsed the book via Twitter:

With that in mind, the book’s jacket copy furthers a frame for Tkacz’s argument:

Few virtues are as celebrated in contemporary culture as openness. Rooted in software culture and carrying more than a whiff of Silicon Valley technical utopianism, openness—of decision-making, data, and organizational structure—is seen as the cure for many problems in politics and business.

 But what does openness mean, and what would a political theory of openness look like? With Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness, Nathaniel Tkacz uses Wikipedia, the most prominent . . .

Read more »

Our free e-book for August: For the Love of It

August 1, 2014
By
Our free e-book for August: For the Love of It

Wayne C. Booth (1921–2005) was the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago, one of the most renowned literary critics of his generation, and an amateur cellist who came to music later in life.  For the Love of It is a story not only of one intimate struggle between a man and his cello, but also of the larger conflict between a society obsessed with success and individuals who choose challenging hobbies that yield no payoff except the love of it. 

“Will be read with delight by every well-meaning amateur who has ever struggled.… Even general readers will come away with a valuable lesson for living: Never mind the outcome of a possibly vain pursuit; in the passion that is expended lies the glory.”—John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune“If, in truth, Booth is an amateur player now in his fifth decade of amateuring, he is certainly not an amateur thinker about music and culture. . . . Would that all of us who think and teach and care about music could be so practical and profound at the same time.”—Peter Kountz, New York Times Book Review

“Wayne Booth, the prominent American literary critic, has . . .

Read more »

Advanced praise for The Getaway Car

July 9, 2014
By
Advanced praise for The Getaway Car

On our forthcoming The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany, from Kirkus Reviews (read the review in full here):

Westlake (1933–2008), who wrote under his own name and a handful of pseudonyms, was an award-winning writer of crime, mystery and detective novels; short stories; screenplays; and one children’s book. University of Chicago Press promotions director Stahl thinks this collection of Westlake’s nonfiction will please his fans; it’s likely these sharp, disarmingly funny pieces will also create new ones. The editor includes a wide range of writing: interviews, letters, introductions to Westlake’s and others’ work, and even recipes. “May’s Famous Tuna Casserole” appeared in the cookbook A Taste of Murder. May is the “faithful companion” of Westlake’s famous protagonist John Dortmunder, “whose joys are few and travails many.” Another of his culinary joys, apparently, was sautéed sloth. One of the best essays is “Living With a Mystery Writer,” by Westlake’s wife, Abby Adams: “Living with one man is difficult enough; living with a group can be nerve-wracking. I have lived with the consortium which calls itself Donald Westlake for five years now, and I still can’t always be sure, when I get up in the morning, which of the . . .

Read more »

Andrew Piper on aging and writing

February 25, 2014
By
Andrew Piper on aging and writing

Above: Goethe’s published poems, color-coded by genre. From Andrew Piper’s striking analysis of Goethe’s shifting vocabulary, with its turn in later years to an increased degree of generic heterogeneity, part of a larger digital humanities project on aging and writing, which can be found here.

. . .

Read more »

Q & A with Peggy Shinner

February 21, 2014
By
Q & A with Peggy Shinner

Peggy Shinner is a lifelong Chicagoan and author of the forthcoming collection You Feel So Mortal: Essays on the Body. A Q & A about bodies, the book, and Shinner’s process follows below.

***

What led you to write a collection of essays about the body? 

The first piece I wrote was about knives. At the time I was a practicing martial artist, and we trained with them in class. We called them practice knives; they were fake—rubber or wood. “Go get a knife,” the teacher would say. And so there we were, a room full of students stabbing and slashing each other. The purpose, of course, was to learn to defend ourselves against them. But I found the whole thing odd and disconcerting. Here I was learning to stab someone. From knives I went on to autopsies. I’d authorized one for my father, and for a long time after I’d been uncomfortable with that decision. Knives, autopsies. It didn’t take long for me to see that I was on to something, and from there the essays seemed to emerge.

You reveal very personal things about yourself in your essays. How is your collection of . . .

Read more »

A Naked Singularity and the Folio Prize

February 17, 2014
By
A Naked Singularity and the Folio Prize

The Folio Prize is the first major English-language book prize open to writers from around the world—an alternative to the Booker Prize (UK) and the National Book Award (US), featuring an international cast of nominees, that aspires, “to celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible.”

On Monday, the Folio committee announced their shortlist for the inaugural 2014 Prize, which followed rounds of nominations from their Academy and requisite letters of support from publishers. We could not be more delighted (truly!) to see Sergio De La Pava’s debut novel A Naked Singularity (published in the UK by Maclehose Editions) among the finalists, praised by Lavinia Greenlaw, chair of the judges, for its “detonating syntax.” Here’s the whole list, which certainly constitutes good company:

Red Doc by Anne Carson

Schroder by Amity Gaige

Last Friends by Jane Gardam

Benediction by Kent Haruf

The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner

A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Tenth of December by George Saunders

The winner will be announced March 10. Congrats to all the finalists—but we . . .

Read more »

Free e-book for January: Murder in Ancient China

January 9, 2014
By
Free e-book for January: Murder in Ancient China

Murder in Ancient China by Robert van Gulik (1910–67), our free e-book for January, helps us launch our latest batch of Chicago Shorts. Part of the Judge Dee mysteries series that orientalist historian and diplomat van Gulik created following a career spent in Allied-occupied Tokyo and Chongqing, China, for the Dutch Foreign Service.

Judge Dee—Confucian Imperial magistrate, inquisitor, and public avenger, based on a famous statesman—was van Gulik’s lasting invention. A welcome addition to the elite canon of fictional detectives, the Judge steps in to investigate homicide, theft, and treason, while attempting to restore order to the golden age of the Tang Dynasty. In Murder in Ancient China’s first story, Judge Dee attempts to solve the mystery of an elderly poet murdered by moonlight in his garden pavilion; in the second, set on the eve of the Chinese New Year, the Judge makes two rare mistakes—to ambiguous results.

Chicago Shorts, published every four to six months, include never-before-published material, off-the-radar reads culled from the University of Chicago Press’s commanding archive, and the best of our newest books, all priced for impulse buying (four titles this season for just $0.99) and presented exclusively in . . .

Read more »

Search for books and authors